Friday, January 17, 2014
Congratulations to the Cardinal Elect Archbishop Nichols
My congratulations to the Cardinal Elect Archbishop Nichols.
It is perhaps sign of the times that some people are literally gushing over his nomination. Terence Wheldon and the Guardian welcome his support of the Soho Gay Masses, which in fact as William Oddie pointed out he stopped. Though some might suggest he merely moved them, a more charitable understanding is that he gradually tried to take control of something that began life as something almost in schism, taking place in an Anglican Church, with no oversight from the diocese, entirely under the control of its own Pastoral Council, designing its own liturgies, selecting its own priests, setting its own theology. Moving them to Farm Street with the insistence that they integrate themselves with parish life is progress, though slower than some would want.
The youthful Vincent Nichols was certainly a 'son of the Council', a key collaborator with the Hume-Worlock axis that more than anything broke with the past and some might argue introduced a serious break with the Church's working class roots and introducing the tyranny of the specialist. At 68 Vincent Nichols like all of us is not the same man he was at 28. He has moved on, like all of us he has learnt from his mistakes and the mistakes of others.
One of the most frightening comments on his appointment is by Gerrard O'Connor on the Vatican Insider, I don't know if it is meant to be tongue-in-cheek but if you want to see the career of a 'careerist' read his article. O'Connor seems to be saying that his appointment to the College of Cardinals is about business as normal, back to the old trail of English College, Ecclesdon Square, service with the Bishop's Conference, appointment as a Bishop, nothing other than the apotheosis of the Magic Circle. For those who hoped for serious reform, this is one of the most depressing accounts I have read, it suggests, without saying, it that Francis' reforms are mere window dressing.
There is too much spin put on Abp Nichols' appointment. Cormac has reached 80 therefore there is no English voting Cardinal. Vincent Nichols has been an Archbishop for five years, and Britain unlike other European countries is in the unusual situation of normally having two votes in a Conclave, now with Cormac's retirement and his Scottish opposite number being in disgrace and being unlikely to be replaced until he himself reaches 80. At that time it might be worth asking whether England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland actually merit three red hats.
Despite the rather sad statistics of decrease in practice that came out earlier this week the English Church is seen as moderate compared to Germany or France, and holding its own. Such issues as sex abuse, compared with Ireland have been dealt with reasonably well. Compared with the USA the English Church is more or less united. There are few serious scandals that have come to the fore. Archbishop Nichols appears in Rome as a competent administrator, an asset, which despite the spin, is precisely what Pope Francis is looking for, if Curial reform is a real priority. His Grace, though less outgoing than his predecessor, knows how to read the signs of times.
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